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Church of England to consider medical cannabis investments

China Daily in London | Updated: 2019-06-09 21:44
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Leaves of marijuana are seen at a field near Hlukhiv, Ukraine, Aug 29, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

The Church Commissioners for England, the investment arm of Church of England, greenlighted a self-imposed ban and will consider investment in medical marijuana, a reversal of its previously held policy of excluding all ventures that profit from cannabis, according to the Financial Times' report.

"We make a distinction between recreational cannabis and medicinal cannabis," FT quoted Edward Mason, head of responsible investment at Church Commissioners as saying. "We are content with it being used for proper medicinal purposes."

Managing the church's 8.3 billion pounds ($10.6 billion) investment fund, the Church Commissioners had previously had an investment exclusion on cannabis, and had not yet invested in companies specializing in the sector, Mason said.

He said the church will publish a formal stance on cannabis soon.

"As with all ethical issues, we look at all aspects, including reductions of crime associated with legalization. But on balance, we came down as an exclusion", said Mason, who was a diplomat in the UK's Foreign Office before joining the church a decade ago.

The Church of England will not invest in companies that earn more than 10 percent of revenue from the sale of recreational cannabis, the threshold it uses for most of its other ethical exclusions, such as tobacco, gambling and high-interest lenders.

The church said it is committed to responsible investment, taking account of environmental, social and governance issues in decision making.

According to its website, the Church Commissioners invest "in a way that is consistent with Christian values". At the end of last year, its portfolio was 40 percent listed equities, 12 percent property and infrastructure, 11 percent land, and most of the remainder in private equity, credit, bonds and cash.

Many of the chemical compounds present in cannabis are believed to have therapeutic effects. For example, cannabidiol can be used to treat convulsions, anxiety, nausea, and depression. It also can serve as a sleep aid or muscle relaxant.

Medicinal cannabis was legalized in the United Kingdom in October. It is legal in Canada and the majority of states in the United States, though it is illegal at the federal level.

According to Jefferies equity research, the legal market for cannabis was worth nearly $11 billion globally last year, and is expected to reach at least $50 billion by 2029.

Hari Guliani from Grow Biotech, a medical cannabis research and advocacy company, said that only a year ago the idea of medical cannabis research raising money from an institutional investor felt far-fetched. He called the church's decision a "positive milestone" for the sector.

"It shows a huge shift in understanding and perspective on what medical cannabis really is, and its different application", Guliani told FT.

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